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Symposium 2012

Solution for Effective Investments in Education

The Challenge

Education is a fundamental right for everyone and key to the future of any country. Education has its price everywhere—but the only thing more expensive than investing in education is not investing ...

Education is a fundamental right for everyone and key to the future of any country. Education has its price everywhere—but the only thing more expensive than investing in education is not investing in education. Inadequate education produces high costs for society in terms of public spending, crime, health, and economic growth. No country can afford to leave too many of its children behind and not to help them achieve the competencies needed for a self-fulfilled life in economic independence.

Use technological innovations to individualize public education cost-effectively.

The embedded use of technology in education can lead to a significant increase in learning outcomes and an increased return on investment. At present, classrooms tend to have teachers spending 80% of their time on reciting standard knowledge and only 20% on individualized support for students—this proportion needs to be reversed, so that diverging individual needs based on different learning styles, aptitudes and personal backgrounds can be effectively addressed. Such an approach would not only support each child individually and foster his or her personal interests and competencies, but also use scarce resources much better, thus making public education more cost-efficient.

By using innovation in technology, governments should strive to make knowledge accessible everywhere as well as offering individualizing learning. Standard knowledge can perhaps be better taught, for example, by high quality video clips of champions rather than by an average teacher around the block. One-size-fits-all textbooks should be replaced with individualized learning concepts facilitated by mobile devices like tablets to allow a learner to access information wherever and whenever.

The same simultaneous test for everybody is worse than an interactive test at the right level at the right time, as it can be carried out on the tablet. Feedback to students about their learning progress should be instant, not weeks or months later after a final exam. In such a model, a teacher becomes more of a learning companion and students can learn more effectively by themselves, even if no good teachers are accessible.

Such a transformation of the use of technology in education requires a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis, ensuring that the most promising innovations can be scaled up for the benefit of as many learners as possible. It is clear that innovative approaches only work with strict accountability and transparency. Only this can be the basis for education decision makers to align their investments to experimental teaching approaches that systematically recognize student diversity and individuality.

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